Rhonda and The Great Unknown are in the running, along with 234 other bands, for the Mercury Prize 2016. The album ‘Fifty’ is 50 minutes long and rocks hard. This blog post comes from the bands website….
The shortlist will be announced on Thursday the 4th of August. Whether the band makes that list or not, it was a huge achievement for them to complete the album entered in the competition and qualify to compete.
In order to record the album, it took building a recording studio from scratch in an open plan office, mainly with bits and pieces of things found on ebay, in rubbish skips or given away. Things like this 2nd hand window that Jim the bass player and sound engineer for the band installed in the control room.
It took 5 years to complete the album ‘Fifty’, because the band started out with just one person, its lead singer Rhonda Merrick and most of the songs were written during a song-a-day-for-a-year project in 2011 and in the early months of 2012 after the project ended, but the habit of writing new material took a bit longer to dwindle down significantly.
After the song-a-day-for-a-year project, she started playing small music venues and local festivals. Sometimes, she needed to pull together a scratch band for a gig and would find other musicians to help out by posting notices on Facebook. In July 2012, she needed a bass player to play Brentwood Festival and Ritchie Swann volunteered.
They started dating, became a couple and eventually began performing as an acoustic-funk duo.
In 2013, they formed the band, Rhonda and The Great Unknown, together.
The line-up has changed a couple of times as they struggled to find the caliber of musicians that could handle a large number of original material. Really good musicians are usually really busy. In the end, a line-up of permanent deps who are in a number of bands turned out to be the best solution for a band just starting out that needed top notch musicians.
The 4 piece line-up of Ritchie, Rhonda with Jim Dawkins or Joe Cox (bass) along with James Plows or Josh Roots on drums, saw the band through most of 2015 and 2016.
On rare occasions, neither of the bass players or drummers were available and the band would use fantastic reserve deps with the talent and experience to jam through a gig of mostly original songs. All of thes musicians in Rhonda and The Great Unknown line-up, includingRitchie Swann, the bands composer/guitarist and keyboardist, are accomplished multi-instrumentalists.
Jim has a music production company called Humana and Rhonda already had a production and publishing company, called Blue Red Green Media LTD, but the band had no record label and in order to compete for the Mercury, the album had to be commercially released by a label. So, Rhonda set-up a label! It’s called KATFM Records and ‘Fifty’ is its debut release. The band members on the album signed a band agreement, the album was properly registered with the UK Charts Company, PRS, PPL and was made available for sale on iTunes and other commercial online stores through an online service called Loudr.fm and this ensured a neutral 3rd party would manage album sales.
Now, in the last few days before the shortlist is announced, the band has no expectation to win a place on that list, but hope springs eternal and hope is better than disappointment, so for a few more days, let’s hope RATGU has a chance to move forward and reach a wider audience through the Mercury Prize 2016. If it’s not meant to be, perhaps the door will remain closed, but a window of opportunity will open from this experience.
Rock and roll.